10/23/06

Inca Trail, Peru

 
Our guide Luis reminded us last night of our pick-up time between 5:10 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. in order to get an early start to the trailhead. Even if my headaches hasn't stopped and my sleeping wasn't good, I woke up at 4:30 a.m. and was ready with my daypack and the sack with the rest of my personal stuff for the porter to carry. After depositing the rest of my stuff at Hostal Amaru, I began to worry as by 5:45 a.m. I wasn't picked up yet by one of Andean Life's staff. Did they forget about me? Just as I was about to call their office, somebody showed up at the lobby at 6 a.m. and off we rushed to meet everyone else on the bus that will take us to Piskacucho (or Km. 82), the start of the trail.

With my trekking group at the trail head in Km. 82

There was a slight drizzle as we drove out of Cusco on our way to Ollantaytambo, three hours away. I tried to catch some sleep but the headaches kept pounding me - what if I dont' recover? I even became nauseous at one point. We had a quick breakfast in Ollantaytambo which I visited only yesterday and bought myself a walking stick for 5 soles. As we were in an elevation much lower than Cusco, my headaches thankfully disappeared, making me feel more confident that I will acclimatize fully by today. I even felt energized!

The raging Urubamba river
The trek starts here
We drove again until Piscacucho (or Km. 82), next to the train track, where the road actually ends. Our porters, all 20 of them, got their hands busy right away sorting out our sacks, sleeping bags and everything else needed for the 4-day trek. Luis gave each one of us our precious trekking permits, reminding us again never to lose it and to keep our passports in our possession for the checkpoints ahead. After registering at the warden's kiosk where our permits were checked and our passports stamped (welcome to Inca country!), we crossed a suspension bridge above the raging waters of Urubamba river. The trek officially began here.



The trail went up steeply for a while until we found ourselves walking on a level path just within eyesight of Urubamba river. We passed by Huillca Raccay, a small Inca site, and the much bigger ruins of Patallacta, used primarily by the Incas as an agricultural station with extensive land terraces.We followed the trail along the banks of Kusichaca river until we reached the small settlement of Hatun Chaca (2,950 meters above sea level) for lunch.

Lunch

Amazingly, our porters have already set up a dining tent complete with table and chairs while the cook has prepared us a sumptuous lunch consisting of guacamole salad, vegetable soup and grilled pork chops. We were impressed. Grace, a lawyer when not trekking, commented that all the while she was thinking we will only be fed with sandwiches!


In the middle of nowhere

After passing by the village of Huayllabamba, the trail became so steep, an indication of what we will be going through in the next few days. My breathing became so labored and every few steps only made it worse until I stopped. Visions of my previous climbs in Mt. Apo (highest mountain in the Philippines) in 1992 and 1993 flashed in my mind - indeed, I was panting then as I am panting now! I'm glad I have to stop every now and then to give way for the porters whose legs seem to fly off the steep paths despite the enormous amount of cargo on their backs. Stopping to catch my breath also gave me a good look around the stunning views that can only be seen from up here.

First Campsite

After a gruelling 6 hours and a half, covering 15 kilometers of ascending struggle, we reached our first campsite at Yunkachimpa (3,300 meters above sea level). What a bliss to finally be able to lie down on my sleeping bag. We were served dinner in multi-course fashion again: appetizer, soup, main entree and for dessert tonight, the cook surprised us with banana flambe! What an indulgence.

2 comments:

  1. Oh wow! This is included on my top 5 places to visit! Great pictures too! Do you mind sending the expense details and itinerary of your trip? Also when's the best time to go?

    Astig ang Machu Pichu!

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  2. JODYxBUFFY2:29:00 PM

    I enjoyed reading your Inca Trail blog. It brought back painful memories.

    When I was a young Boy Scout attending an International Jamboree in Peru, we hiked the ENTIRE route from Cuzco to Machu Picchu--without porters/llamas and laden down with about 60 pounds of camping gear and food per person! And we had to do it in 6 days!

    Perhaps I will return one day and do the vastly more comfortable and shorter trek from Ollantaytambo.

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